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How to Make Friends: Suggestions for Shy People

Updated on June 11, 2012
Navigating new social situations is not intuitive for all of us -- here are some tips that will help make you more comfortable in forming relationships.
Navigating new social situations is not intuitive for all of us -- here are some tips that will help make you more comfortable in forming relationships.

For those of us who are inherently shy, making friends and meeting new people can be an exhausting ordeal. Introductions, small-talk, meeting social expectations; each of these things is difficult, painful, and far from natural for the introverted soul. Yet, in certain situations -- moving to a new town, school, or job, attending an important party or job function, searching for a romantic partner -- it is necessary to reach out to others, or else be faced with pervasive loneliness and isolation. This article presents a number of things the shy folk among us can contemplate and put into practice to facilitate the friend-making process in uncertain social situations.

Channel Your [Outer] Extrovert

In the search for friendship or companionship, it is first and foremost important to remain true to yourself. Founding a friendship or relationship under false pretenses is a surefire way to set it up for failure, particularly because you run the risk of attracting a person incompatible with your genuine self. That being said, if your genuine self would rather walk over hot coals than attend a party where you knew no one, you’re not going to get very far. The solution to this problem is quite simple: instead of pretending to be someone you're not or forcing a social interaction, channel your outer extrovert. This requires some imagination on your part. Like most people, you have probably come across that one, charismatic person in your life who gets along with everybody. Recall this person's ability to converse, and try to channel that ability in your own interactions. Do not suppress your own personality, interests, or inclinations; simply incorporate those into your new, inquisitive, outgoing demeanor. Smile, laugh, allow yourself to ask questions and then ask follow-up questions. Imagine you were the person you are talking to -- what kinds of questions would you like to be asked? What subject or type of stories might you enjoy speaking about? Etc. The power of imagination here is your greatest asset. You must imagine both that you are the most charismatic person you know, and from there, imagine what the person you are conversing with would most like to talk about. With both these things in place, talking might come more easily. You are not your usual reserved, tentative self -- you are likeable, inquisitive, and invested.

Turn Rejection Into a Game

Rejection, and fear of it, is one of the most compelling reasons introverts and shy people tend to detach themselves from others. The easy way to handle this fear (alongside the fear of being judged) is to turn it into a game. Like channeling your outer extrovert, this requires the power of imagination. You do not need to try and convince yourself that rejection doesn't bother you -- that is an incredibly difficult task, and is actually also unnecessary for the task at hand. Instead, all you need to do is imagine that rejection is not something intangible, but is a tangible objection that you necessarily acquire as part of your social interactions. Allow yourself the quota of being rejected twice a day. Strive to be rejected twice a day. This is not to suggest that you should do something ridiculous in order to be rejected; instead, use rejection as a metric for evaluating the effort you are putting into social interactions. If you have acquired two instances of rejection in a given day, you are likely putting forth the time and effort necessary to build relationships. Which brings me to my next point...

Realize That This Might Require Prolonged Effort

The biggest mistake you can make in your attempts to inspire new friendships is underestimating the amount of work required to get the relationship started. For some people this is not the case -- but you are not that person. We the people are NOT all created equal, and for those of us who don't make friends a the drop of a hat, the process is time and energy intensive. If you do not accept this fact and prepare yourself for it, you make it that much easier to give up your quest prematurely or partway through. Also remember that, once a friendship or bond has been formed, it takes significantly less mental and emotional energy to keep it in place! This is the hard part. If you can keep yourself going now, you'll be in the clear later.

Learn to Enjoy Yourself

As I have just established that social interactions can be painful for introverts, this seems like an unproductive instruction. Still, like most of the above, it is worth bringing up. To be sure, a large part of the reason shy people dread unfamiliar social situations is because they have established a relationship between discomfort and social interaction. Positive attitude truly makes a difference in these cases; instead of allowing yourself to believe fully that you abhor some instances of social interaction, tell yourself that a small part of you actually enjoys these situations. Trying to convince yourself fully that you like them is unrealistic; instead, allow yourself to believe that a minor part of you has fun meeting new people, asking the questions, and trying to get rejected. If this is difficult for you, try to picture whatever person you might be talking to. In all likelihood, they enjoy the attention you are paying to them. Feed off their enjoyment, and allow yourself to feel glad that you have created a positive interaction for them! As with most things, allowing yourself the possibility to enjoy something--instead of unilaterally approaching it with the mindset you don't--leaves the door open for you to actually enjoy it. And, once you enjoy it, it will come more naturally to you. Each of the above steps will become slightly less tiresome in subsequent times and, before you know it, you are able to handle even the most daunting situation with, if not ease, then confidence that you can navigate your way through the situation!

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